Sellers Points Breakdown: Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman logo

I said a while back that Wonder Woman deserved a solo film before playing second fiddle to Superman and/or Batman. And while she’s still only getting a supporting role in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, at least her first solo movie will be out prior to Justice League…if only by a little while.

Wonder Woman is easily the most recognizable and popular female superhero in the world. She’s part of the DC Comics “Trinity,” which means she’s on the same level as Batman and Superman. Or, at least that’s what it’s supposed to mean. But that glass ceiling still seems like its holding, despite a few cracks.

She’s had one TV show and no movies up to now, while Superman and Batman have had multiple versions of both. Her animated movie, despite being arguably the best modern DC animated film to date, is still its lowest selling and largely ignored. Blame that on whoever you like (personally I blame anyone who has been told about how great it is and refuses to give it a chance because it’s Wonder Woman).

Luckily, Warner Brothers has realized that, in order to make a connected DC Cinematic Universe, you have to have a solo Wonder Woman franchise along with it. And we at least know who will be our Wonder Woman, so there’s nothing left to talk about there. But there’s plenty left to talk about when it comes to who’s going to write and/or direct, how much should this movie cost and what kind of story direction could it follow.

Let’s get into it!

They do realize I was around before Xena, right?
They do realize I was around before Xena, right?

It’s (financially) complicated?

The reasoning behind taking so long to get Wonder Woman to the big screen has been how “complicated” of a character she is, according to WB execs. While the knee-jerk reaction to that is to say “bullshit,” what they actually mean is “we’re scared of it failing as spectacularly as Catwoman did in 2004.” The sad truth is, the people financing a lot of these movies only think of them in terms of return on investment. They could care less if the movie’s good. And Catwoman was a $100 million loss even with a then-recent Oscar winner in the lead role.

Times have changed a bit, however. After the success of films like The Hunger Games and Lucy, WB couldn’t afford not to change on this. And it would make them look even more sexist by not making Wonder Woman the direct lead-in to Justice League. I mean, yeah, Catwoman was a miserable failure, but so was Green Lantern and Jonah Hex, but neither of those movies have kept a slew of new male superhero films from being made.

But how much should a Wonder Woman film cost?

Given the type of character you’re dealing with (based largely in Greek Mythology), it’s easy to compare her to Marvel’s biggest risk so far, Thor. The first Thor film was made for around $150 million. It grossed over $449 million worldwide, not counting video sales. For a character that wasn’t exactly a proven box office-draw at the time and a leading man who was virtually unknown then, that’s pretty damn good.

Thor gif

A good Wonder Woman should probably shoot for a budget of about $175 million, give or take $10 million. Themyscira (fictional home of the Amazons) may be seen in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and if so maybe the same sets can be constructed again or left in place until those scenes in Wonder Woman are finished. And any time practical effects can be used in place of CGI, it would probably be all the better.

For Wonder Woman to succeed, it first depends on how much it costs to make and then the marketing push behind it. No doubt WB will want to give it a hard push since it’s positioned as a summer tent pole and it’s the final film before their big ensemble movie, Justice League. This is “go big or go home” time. If the budget is around my hypothetical $175 million, it needs to make at least $205 million domestically and between $275-300 million internationally to guarantee it gets a sequel. Essentially, if it grosses anywhere over $500 million, a sequel is all-but assured. And the other risky moves on the slate (Green Lantern reboot, Cyborg) will be that much safer.

But if it fails or completely bombs, Justice League is likely to still happen and all hopes of future films with Wonder Woman (and the rest of the character for that matter) will rest squarely on its shoulders. It’s a lot of pressure, but at least total responsibility isn’t on Wonder Woman’s shoulders. Though the future of WB taking chances on female and obscure DC characters could be called into question. If it fails, get ready for a whole lot more Superman and Batman. And maybe Flash, since he’s becoming a lot more popular these days.

Booya! Wait, how sure are we my solo movie is happening?
Booya! Wait, how sure are we my solo movie is happening?

 

Embrace the past, forge the future

We haven’t heard a ton of rumors about this movie yet, but a recent one suggested that it’ll be set in the 1920’s with a planned trilogy that eventually brings it into modern day. Not that setting the first film or at least part of it in the distant past is a bad idea, but taking three movies to move Wonder Woman into modern context when she’s going to be part of a modern day Justice League just doesn’t make sense. Yes, Captain America: The First Avenger, was largely a period piece and it worked in its favor to keep the focus on Steve Rogers, but he was in the present day by the end. Wonder Woman should follow a similar pattern, if it is actually set in the past. Dragging it out for two films before a third moves to modern times is too much of a risk for a young franchise. Although playing up her Greek God roots needs to happen…a lot.

Diana (WW, duh) should be much, much older than Bruce or Clark. She should be, like the rest of the Amazons, essentially immortal. Like Thor or Captain America, she ages, but at an incredibly slow rate. She should also be equal parts wise and kind, but she carries a sword and knows how to use it. Wonder Woman is compassionate first and part of the reason nobody has seen her around is because the Amazons gave up on the world of man once he started making unending war. They thought they would be better off leaving the world of man, much like their gods had already done. The appearance of Superman and the other Kryptonians could have gotten their attention and made them think that new gods (Kirby foreshadowing?!?) had arrived or maybe some old gods were returning. Either way, a threat assessment would need to be done. The Amazons are hidden but with beings that powerful coming around, they couldn’t stay that way forever. The World War I story, if true, could revolve around the last time Diana gave man a chance. She learns the hard way that man will never stop finding ways to destroy himself and that no matter what she does, War (Ares?) will always find a way to win. Maybe the parts in the past could play out over two wars and the destruction of the first nuclear weapons could be what finally sends Diana back to Themyscira permanently. All hypothetical, sure, but it’s a direction that makes sense to me.

Darwyn Cooke's New Frontier might be a good place to look for Wonder Woman ideas.
Darwyn Cooke’s New Frontier might be a good place to look for Wonder Woman ideas.

Determining who will write/direct is the first issue to tackle. If a treatment has been turned in, as the previous rumor suggests, then someone has already been hired. Who that is, we still don’t know. I expect an announcement relatively soon on this one, though, since things have to get moving relatively quickly after Batman v Superman wraps. As for who should direct, we’ve heard that WB is eyeing female directors for the project, but that’s not confirmed. It sounds likely and would be a good idea, but nothing concrete has emerged for that rumor. And, of course, a new rumor just surfaced that only male directors have been approached about the project, so who the hell knows?

A name that always jumps to the top of the list is Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty, Point Break). She’s an Oscar winner and extremely talented, so she should be at the top of the list for WB. The likelihood of getting her, however, is a different story. She hasn’t really shown much interest in superhero films and her movies tend to be about much more serious subject matter these days. I’m going to call this one as not happening. Michelle MacLaren (Game of Thrones) is a name that’s more likely to come up a few times in the discussion. She’s got a great handle on directing a cast of multiple important characters and has a visual style that would fit with Wonder Woman nicely. She’s largely done TV up to this point, but she’s ready to make the leap, I think. If the director chair does go to a man instead, my top pick would be the man who made Thor work so well the first time around: Kenneth Branagh. He’s still working on projects for Disney, having just finished filming the live action Cinderella, but the man knows how to make these mythical figures work on the big screen. If he did it once, he could easily do it again and maybe even better. There’s been mention of Angelina Jolie being in the running, but before you scoff/laugh/cringe at this idea, watch the trailer for this movie she directed. And if she were to get it, there’s someone else that might come along with her.

There’s not much room for casting rumors here, we already know Gal Gadot is playing Diana/Wonder Woman. As for villains, her classic one would be the Greek God of War, Ares. But, you could also factor in other Greek Gods like Hades, Hera and Zeus or maybe another classic WW villain like Cheetah. It’s all up in the air at the moment, but if I were to guess and if the WWI-II era thing is true, I’d lean toward Ares. And there are lots of great actors who could portray him on screen. Remember how I mentioned Angelina Jolie earlier? How about Brad Pitt as Ares? He’s got a long list of movies that show how he’d be great at this, but mostly I’m hoping for a combination of Tyler Durden (Fight Club) and Aldo Raine (Inglorious Basterds). If not him, this is another area I think Kenneth Branagh could serve the movie well. Directing and acting in the film? Why not? Again, I base all of this on nothing but speculation and what I’d like to see in the film. We’ll all find out soon enough, I’m sure.

 

The Lasso of Truth shall set us free

We have just about a year and a half to go before Wonder Woman will be on the big screen in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Most of our questions will likely be answered by then. The most important thing is that we’re finally getting Wonder Woman on the big screen.

It’s taken far too long for Warner Brothers or Marvel Studios to get a female-lead superhero film going again. And it’s only right that the most well-known female superhero(ine) gets her own movie before any other female comic book hero. And hopefully this opens the door for even more female heroes to get some cinematic spotlight.

The financial risks are there, just like they are for any superhero film. But the truth is, a superhero movie like this will attract the curious anyway and the comic book fans who are looking to enjoy/scrutinize it. But if it’s a good movie on top of that, it’ll become a financial success. People are ready to love a Wonder Woman movie; they just need a good reason.

As we get closer to official announcements from the studio, more and more rumors are going to be loosed on the internet. Some may be true while others will be blatantly false. Some have already happened. It’s important to be as scrutinizing of so-called reports that cite only a single unidentified source as you would be of a studio hype campaign. Once we’ve seen this new Wonder Woman in action, then we’ll know for sure. Until then, just remember that only 10 years ago none of this would have seemed possible. It’s a great time for comics fans at the movies.

No arguments here.
No arguments here.

Set to open June 23, 2017

Come back next week for a breakdown of Justice League part 1!

Author: Russell Sellers

Comic book geek extraordinaire, Russell Sellers enjoys enthusiastic conversations about all things geek. He also traffics in ill-timed puns and random obscure Ghostbusters quotes. Send Russell an email